What's Up With That? Sign protecting eagles lingers long after raptors

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Rachel Fishback sent us a wordless question: A photo of a woodsy picnic table set off with a sign that says NO ENTRY and WILDLIFE PROTECTION AREA. Get out your magnifying glass and you can also make out a sticker that says "Closed June 29 — July 7, 2007."

Rachel, it can only help us if you also provide some clues, in words — at least letting us know where this is, for example, so we know who to call — but as it happens, this reporter cycles past the spot frequently. So you're in luck. We checked with Vancouver Public Works for the scoop.

This spot is just off the Renaissance Trail, a few hundred feet east of the overlook below the Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver Public Works spokeswoman Loretta Callahan said. And, as you must have surmised, Rachel: "The sign needs to be updated," Callahan said.

"It's an old sign that was specifically posted to protect a nesting pair of eagles around the Fourth of July at that time," she wrote in an email. "There were several years in a row when restrictions were in place for the area due to the nesting pair of bald eagles. Temporary stickers were added to update the year shown on the sign for several years in a row. However, Water Center staff stopped adding stickers a few years ago when the nest was no longer occupied in the spring. These temporary stickers have probably fallen off of the sign over the last couple of seasons.

"While the eagles still are in the area, they have not been nesting there for the past couple of years," she said. "We don't know why the pair isn't nesting, at least at this location."

Not only has the behavior of the birds changed, she said, but so has their federally protected status. In 2011, Callahan said, the feds revised bald eagles' status from "threatened" to "species of concern," while the State of Washington settled on "sensitive species." Somehow that means management of eagle issues moved from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it's still against the law to disturb a nesting eagle.

Because the eagles in question have moved on, though, this picnic table is open for business.

— Scott Hewitt

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